Throwback is an understatement when it comes to this slice of Americana. The Gasparilla Inn & Club was built in 1911 and became The Gasparilla Inn in 1913, but don’t get caught up in the two-year time lag. There’s so much more here that hasn’t changed. The inn is on the National Register of Historic Places, so it is maintained under their watchful eye and adheres to strict standards so as not to destroy the historical beauty of the hotel.
The staff, being primarily from the islands of the Bahamas and some from Caribbean islands, give another touch of authenticity to old Florida and how things once were.
The hotel rooms are spacious and can be found on the three levels of the main building. This is all there was in the early 1900’s. Now there are villas trimming the property from in front of the hotel’s main entrance to those that have unobstructed views along the golf course. The course itself is an enviable place to be because of its views and proximity to the water. Some holes are set right on the water’s edge, making for spectacular water hazards and distracting views. The inn is really a slice of old Florida and the typical activities of those who came here to escape the weather up north and to feel as though they are on a tropical island without ever leaving the US.
Dinner in The Pink Elephant is casual and the menu is based on imaginative local cuisine. Be sure to finish the evening off with the famous cocktail (rich and creamy so it can easily replace dessert) The Pink Elephant Hummer. You’ll be glad you tried this. For a more formal affair, The Main Dining Room, set in the lobby of the original structure has a Maitre D’ who is also the sommelier. Quick witted and ready with a pairing of any wine with any choice from the menu, he will surely leave you with a great taste in your mouth and a few new jokes to share with friends.
Instead of pairing necessarily symbiotic wines and foods, he sometimes likes the “semi into a wall” approach, smashing opposites like my beet salad with Florida citrus and goat cheese with The Ned, a New Zealand wine full of grapefruit and high notes. Dinner here is classic and laidback.
This is old Florida, quiet and a little more refined than the state we know today. The security of one road in and one road out, makes it a haven for the affluent and elite. We hear tell many presidents have made a stay here and just across Charlotte Harbor sits Cabbage Key where Jimmy Buffet wrote Cheeseburger in Paradise. In case you want to venture off the Pete Dye signature 18 hole course and hit the water. That’s an interesting tidbit, on your way there, maybe try your hand at fishing. Boca Grande has long been known as “the tarpon fishing capital of the world.”
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